Challenge in Gaming: What’s the best way to be tested?

I began playing Wolfenstein: New World Order a few weeks ago. I started the game in the usual way, by selecting ‘New Game’ and then perusing the available difficulties. I was curious to find a whopping five levels of difficulty available to me. It struck me at that moment that it’s been a very long time since I saw a game settle for an ‘Easy-Medium-Hard’ spread of difficulties. I also found it odd that New World Order was eager to throw so many options at me right out of the gate.

Personally, I could never begin a game on anything except ‘normal’. It makes much more sense to me to attempt a higher difficulty on the second play through, when I have the intricacies of the gameplay sussed. Games will often hide their highest settings, allowing them to be unlocked after the player has gone through the game once. I struggle to imagine anyone running headlong into Wolfenstein’s “ÜBER” setting on their first go and then enjoying the experience.

It’s not that I don’t think people would enjoy the most difficult setting. It’s the level of challenge present that I think would turn first-time players away. Playing a games ‘extreme’ difficulty is meant to be taxing, but if a player has mastered a game’s ‘normal’ setting, they can gauge for themselves whether they will be able to take on something greater. Whether or not a Gamer enjoys ‘challenging’ games, every game challenges us in some way and it’s up to us to decide how enjoyable that is.

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The Gunblade – Video Games vs. History

Whilst I would never consider myself a violent man, I find weapons fascinating. Whether they are a work of fiction or non-fiction, I see them as curious inventions that say a great deal about our species. Our History is full of strange and striking creations of war. It’s when Fantasy and Reality collide that things get really interesting.

The Gunblade – Video Games vs. History

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Weird Theory: Do Pokémon have a greater purpose?

There’s something slightly odd about the world of Pokémon. It’s not the hundreds of animals with elemental powers and supernatural abilities. No, that all makes perfect sense when you think about it. It’s the world itself that doesn’t quite make sense.

I’ve poked fun at the nature of Pokémon in the past – the effortless and never-ending happiness of every NPC, the unspoken chivalric code between Pokémon, the disturbing side of Poké Balls – but I only recently put all the mysterious pieces together in one theory. A theory which explains all the oddities in the game series. A theory as airtight as it is entirely unnecessary.

​Weird Theory: Do Pokémon have a greater purpose?

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School Trips to Game Worlds: A Space Station for All Subjects

Two weeks ago, I argued the case for an educational visit to Rapture. Last week, I set my sites on Neo-Paris. The third video game location I have in mind would probably make for the best school trip ever.

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​School Trips to Game Worlds: Who fancies a Sci-Fi Croissant?

After finishing my first playthrough of Assassin’s Creed 2, I was left with a singular thought etched into my mindset. It was not the idea of being an assassin – what it would be like to run across roof troops and leap from inexplicable heights into bails of straw. No, I was left with a strong desire to visit Venice. Whilst playing through the latter stages of the game, I found myself wondering whether the city really is a gorgeous as the game suggests, and just how much Venice has changed since the 16th Century.

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Last week, I gave my proposal for a school trip to the fictional city of Rapture. The submerged scenery of the Bioshock games may be aesthetically pleasing, but the true worth of the city is in its educational possibilities. When the city was in its prime, Rapture would have opened the eyes and minds of any student able to visit. I also asked you to consider the following question:

If you could organise/embark on a school trip to a video game location, where would you go?

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School Trips to Game Worlds: Where would you go?

Two weeks ago I was on a school trip in Berlin. Each time I go on this trip (this was the fifth time) a student looks up at the Reichstag building, turns to me and demands to know if that was the building ‘they’ assaulted at the end of Call of Duty: World at War. Every trip, without fail, and it always makes me chuckle.

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Returning to my blog after a two week hiatus, I find myself mulling over an odd question (which formed somewhere between leaving the amazing city of Berlin and challenging my students to Mario Kart on the coach ride home) that I wish pose to anyone who has ever been a student or teacher:

If you could organise/embark on a school trip to a video game location, where would you go?

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​More Reasons to be a Gamer-Teacher

A student once asked me if Richard the Lionheart was ginger (we’d just finished a lesson on the Crusades). I stated that, yes, records show that King Richard I had red hair. The student gleefully announced that he had seen Richard in the city of Arsuf when playing Assassin’s Creed. Once again, a video game has provided a visual queue for a student’s studies. AC1_Altair_RichardOur hobbies and our professions are usually kept far apart. This is usually deliberate; a hobby allows you to take your mind off the work waiting for you. In other instances the career and the pastime are so different that they rarely cross paths. I usually put aside my enjoyment of video games when teaching… but every so often the two benefit each other. Continue reading “​More Reasons to be a Gamer-Teacher”

Gamer-Teacher: The Execution of Yoshi Cromwell

The stage is set. Mario’s desire for a male child is an ever-growing concern. His first wife, Pauline, has failed to produce the heir he craves. Age and stress have taken a toll on her body. Mario wants a new, younger wife that will secure his succession, and the vibrant Princess Peach has presented herself as an appealing alternative. A major barrier stands between Mario and his new wife: Bowser refuses to allow Mario and Peach to marry. How will Mario solve his Great Matter?

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Last week I introduced a revision lesson that I use with Sixth Form students studying the reign of Henry VIII. The lesson uses the Mario games as an analogy for Henry VIII and the impact his actions had on the English Church. It’s a great lesson for everyone involved and the students recall a huge amount of information through the activity.

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Gamer-Teacher: Mario and Henry VIII

I try to be very careful when mixing gaming with education. These are two of my major interests but not every student will appreciate gaming references punctuating every lesson. Nevertheless, a comparison between video game and subject matter is sometimes too tempting to pass up. In the case of the infamous King Henry VIII, there is a clear and definable connection with the affable Super Mario.

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I’ll admit, the two characters are quite different at first glance. Whilst the two men are portly in stature, one is a high-jumping plumber and visitor of a magical kingdom, whilst the other rules over a much more traditional kingdom, occupying his time with women and wars with France. If you dig a little deeper though, you’ll soon realise that these two people have a lot in common. Those similarities make for a great lesson.

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Gamer-Teacher: Video Game Music in the Classroom

During a school day other teachers wander into my room as I teach. Occasionally they will remark on how wonderful it is to hear classical music emanating from a classroom, and how pleasant it is to see students appreciating quality music as they complete their work. As they leave, the students share a collective smirk; that teacher doesn’t know that Sir is playing the Halo soundtrack.

I’m not the first person to see the benefit of using video game music whilst studying. Video game music is designed to be in the background. It is intended to be entertaining without becoming distracting. Whether you are trying to improve your concentration or make a laborious task more interesting, music from games offers a wonderful solution.

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